War is brewing between the Greenlands and the Summer Kingdom, despite the efforts of Lord Aidan and Prince Varion, who have been meeting in secret in an attempt to maintain peace. When war proves inevitable, Aidan offers Varion asylum, loathe to see the man he’s come to care about become his enemy.
But Varion refuses, sacrificing safety and his own desires to stay in the Summer Kingdom in order to protect his little brother from their ruthless father. The two men instead declare a blood oath to always protect each other, an oath that will see them through war, transformation, and a deadly curse…
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This was a wonderful romantic adventure, with lots of UST between our heroes. The world Ms. Zagar has created is fully realised, with its own history, culture and customs.
I’m not usually a fan of shifter romance stories, I have a phobia about dogs so books with werewolves tend to terrify me rather than think anything romantic. But I do adore fantasy and dragons, so I am glad I gave this one a try.
Although short at novella-length, the story and characters are fully developed. Aidan and Varion are both noble characters and you have to wonder why Cendali hadn’t poisoned Varion’s mind as much as he had his youngest son, Tiernon. – Zipper Rippers, 4 stars.
A bitter gale howled through the deserted buildings of Esterwind, a former hamlet on the Greenlands’ border. Lord Aidan Vashura held his hood about his face as he approached the church. The large oaken door of the Goddesses’ house of worship swung open, and he entered the building, closing the door behind him with the weight of his body.
“Praise be to Lymeris, Goddess of Wind,” the priest uttered, lighting a candle that was quickly extinguished by the draft coming through cracks in the old stone. Dirty stained glass windows rattled, the lead that held it firm threatening to give way and shatter centuries-old murals of the Goddesses breathing life into the world.
The priest turned as Lord Aiden lowered his hood to reveal a boyish face with spiked brown hair. Blue eyes matched the color of his cloak. White plate mail, as yet unsullied by the weapons of war, covered his body. A sword hung in its scabbard at his side, a dragon decorating the hilt as to remind those who beheld him that the Vashura family bore dragon blood in their veins. Enough to grant them power, but not enough to disfigure their bodies into beasts that were half-human, half-dragon, like the Dragonfolk.
Their detractors often said that the mother of all Dragonfolk was a woman who had fallen in love with a dragon, bedding the beast and taking its gigantic scaly cock inside her, the dragon seed creating a monster that even its mother could not look upon.
But then, racists said a lot of things that held no basis in fact. King Cendali was one of them, standing high atop his golden throne in the Summer Kingdom and repeating whatever tales furthered his agenda of taking back the Terminus Lands. It was true that the Dragonfolk had entered the disputed Terminus Lands, but only to reclaim their ancient graveyard and their ancestral home.
King Lenart of the Greenlands had not encouraged them, but neither could he stop their march when their homes had been flooded. Contrary to the Great River Treaty, King Cendali had placed a dam upon it, forcing the Dragonfolk to flee. War was inevitable in the face of such bold acts of aggression.
The priest nodded to Aidan. “It is good to see you, young Lord Aidan. Prince Varion arrived just shortly ago. He is in my private rooms.”
“I thank you for your discretion thus far.” Aidan approached the altar and placed a pouch of gold coin in the hands of the Goddess’ statue. “Now, more than ever, I require your discretion on this matter.”
“You shall have it, my lord. None shall ever come to know of your meetings.” The priest returned to his prayers. Aidan knew there was a good chance that the gold was not going into the church’s coffers, but the price of silence was one he was prepared to pay.
Aidan opened the large wooden door that led into the priest’s private chambers. Varion sat behind a mahogany desk on a comfortable-looking chair, seeming awkward in the black plate mail he wore. Platinum blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail, and grey-green eyes that spoke of intelligence and wisdom analyzed him, sizing him up and assessing his changes since their last meeting.
“You look well, Aidan. How fares your father?” Varion stood and took Aiden’s gauntlet-clad hand in his own.
“I have been well enough. My father is still weak, but my mother does the best she can to make him comfortable. I thank you for your concern, Varion.”
They embraced like brothers, awkward in their armor but needing to reaffirm their friendship. Formalities aside, they relaxed a little. Aiden took a chair and sat down, looking up at the window that depicted Lymeris, a woman with wings instead of hands, causing winds to blow across the world and destroy all that which was evil.
“We could use her now to blow away the winds of war.” Varion’s eyes spoke of inner turmoil. A storm raged inside him that would not abate.
“The war cannot be averted, Varion. Cendali went too far when he rounded up the Dragonfolk living in the Summer Kingdom. Tell me, what was their fate?”
“I do not know.” Varion looked down at the wooden table. “I suspect they are languishing in the dungeons. I cannot say it is a place I visit much. If they were being executed, I would have heard about it.”
“You can’t hope to bury your head in the sand,” Aidan sighed. “Varion, you must pick a side.”
“If you knew that the war can’t be avoided, then why did you come here today? What else have we to talk about?”
“My father’s offer of asylum still stands. Come with me today, Varion. Cross the border and leave this war to your father.” Aiden’s eyes silently pleaded with Varion, but Varion turned his gaze away.
“You know I cannot accept your gracious offer. I have sworn to protect my brothers. They have none besides myself to guide them since Mother died. Tiernon has taken up the sword at only fourteen summers and has vowed to slay every last Dragonman.”
“This is your life we’re talking about, Varion! How much longer can you pretend to obey your father’s will? How much time before Dragonfolk blood is on your hands as well?”
“Don’t say that, Lord Aidan. I have no quarrel with the Dragonfolk, you know that. I will not slay innocents.”
“We’re going to war! You and I will have no choice but to obey the wishes of our kings. Even if that means we fight one another. I believe in what I’m fighting for. Do you?” Aidan stood up. “This was a waste of time. I shouldn’t have come here.”
“If you should fight me, Aidan, do not hesitate to slay me. I will not raise my sword against you.”
“Don’t be foolish. This is war. You will do whatever it takes to survive, and so shall I. I pray that we shall not come to blows, but it is out of our hands.” Aidan walked over to the window, where he was bathed in green light. Varion followed, reaching out to grasp Aidan’s shoulder. He turned Aidan to face him, staring into his bright blue eyes for a long moment.
“I knew we could not come to an agreement today. I only came to say goodbye.” Varion’s expression was filled with sadness and regret for a moment before returning to its usual impassive expression. His armored hands squeezed Aidan’s white shoulder plates before he leaned in close, capturing Aidan’s lips with his own.